Photo Credit: ZB Images
Time to change the pace up a bit here, with a badass band that will blow you away in a different way. A band that easily has some of the best harmonies I’ve ever heard live, meet the newest Badass Band, Roman.
I’d heard about Roman for a while via some friends of mine and had even met front man Jon Hogan, his brother Justin, as well as flute player Allison Flanagan, before ever seeing them live. When I finally got around to taking the recommendation of my friends to see them, I was absolutely not disappointed. I saw them at Room 5, an intimate, singer-songwriter type venue in Hollywood. Watching them set up an arrangement of guitar, piano, cajon and flute and I was already intrigued. They started and the vocals hit me like a truck. I don’t think I ever looked away from the stage or noticed anything else going on in the room during their set. The vocals were the perfect blend of husky and soft, almost as if someone was whispering sweet nothings in your ear. Each tune was simple, yet intricate, and you couldn’t help but really, truly listen. The variety of instrumentation and interchanging of it for each song was engaging and each new element added something new and exciting.
Roman will be releasing a new album in the coming months, but for now you can scope the Sleepwalking EP which features tracks:
- “Sleepwalking”- A moody, piano driven track with hauntingly beautiful vocals/harmonies that will drive this song right into your soul.
- “Mary’s Song”- This tune really showcases a little bit of everything I mentioned about the live show. It features guitar, keys and flute at the climax, with vocals that are a bit thicker insisting, “Mary’s gone, she knows what she did. She won’t bother no more.”
- “Don’t Haunt Me”- A perfectly simple track which will almost make you feel as if you’re sitting in your living room listening to them play. At the core the plea, “Don’t haunt me, the worst you fear, is at it again.” Just this chorus alone will have you reeling with emotion.
Recently, I grabbed coffee with Jon and we talked about when he started playing music, he enlightened me about Dharana and how it relates to his songwriting, and told me the cool story behind the band’s name.
When and why did you start playing music?
Jon: Oh wow. I guess, I went to church as a kid, and I would always be next to my dad and he would be singing in this really low tone. I always thought it was really funny, but also, it was pretty beautiful too. I would always try and find the harmonies/ Those were my very first memories of music. I did not understand what a harmony was, I was just gravitated towards them I guess. Then, I started writing when I was 15.
Jon: Yeah. I wrote a song called “Genuinely”. It was all about living genuinely. It was so simple, but it was a nice catchy tune. My brothers were always really supportive of me writing. When they heard that song they were like, “What? You write? You write music?!” Then, when I was 16, I was dating this girl and she cheated on me. My middle brother Justin, who plays in the band, he is this virtuoso on the piano. He is incredible. Amazing composer. I grew up watching him play piano. I started playing the piano right after this breakup. 16 year olds, you know? Drama. The emotions of it all. I ended up writing this song, and I played it for my oldest brother. I still remember his face because I turned around after the song, and his jaw was just like, “What? First of all, you play piano?” It was this little pop, sad song that I wrote called “3 AM”. It was cheesy looking back on it now.
BBB: Hey, everyone has to start somewhere right?
Jon: Yeah. That was when I guess, and why. That is just what I find myself naturally doing, getting the emotions out through music.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Jon: Oh man. It was weird because I was born in ’89 and my brothers were always telling me what to do. Whether it was play soccer, or whatever. I remember riding to school with them learning to play Nirvana, Weezer, and all these 90’s bands. Fountains of Wayne. Queens of the Stone Age. Meanwhile, my generation was like listening to Backstreet Boys and stuff like that. I was like, “No way. This stuff is so lame compared to the car rides with my brothers.” I had a lot of great influence from them musically. My dad was always a huge Beatles fan. He taught me some of the classic stuff. Allman Brothers, Beach Boys, The Zombies. Love those guys.
Why the name Roman?
Jon: That is interesting because I was talking to my oldest brother and he is very much an idealist, and he is a writer. He comes up with these amazing stories. I was talking to him about what would be a cool band name. I did not like the idea of calling it my own name. It just feels vain. “Here is Jonathan Hogan.” Also, no offense to my parents, I feel like Jonathan sounds like a soap opera name. That’s weird. I thought about groups like Cake and Beck. Just one name bands. I just thought that was a cool idea. Anyway, I was talking to my brother and he was telling me about this script he was writing. He was like, “I have this cool character and his name is Roman.” I was like, “I really want that. That is an awesome name.” So, he actually came up with the name. I just really liked it and I stole it from him. There is a power to it and simplicity too. Also, the Romans fell. It all ends. I think that it just develops the music a little bit too because it has a sad tone when you think of it.
Do you always play with your brother and Allison? Or does it vary? How does that work?
Jon: Back in the day, we used to play in Corvallis, Oregon. We would just play a bunch of Beatles stuff. It was just me, Justin, and Mark. So, my two brothers. That was when I was 16. Then, as things progressed, we would just play wherever we were. We all were down here for a little bit, in LA. Mark recently moved out to Oregon, so he does not play with us as much. We really cherish those shows.
Adding Allison was so convenient and awesome because she lives in our apartment building. I remember running into her. She was just this fiery ball of energy and intelligence. We all just hit it off. We have just been playing for a while now in LA. She is great because she is a flutist and she also has an amazing voice. She plays at the Dresden sometimes. She sings jazz standards and stuff with Marty and I. That was a great addition. Right now I am rehearsing with my friend Derrick. He is a trombonist. We are just trying things out. It is kind of fun to mix and match sounds and frequencies. You want to bring something new to the table. For the band as well, because you do not want to just play the same set over and over. Yeah, there is an art to defining it and getting it really good, but also, you do not want to be bored.
How does your creative process typically work?
Jon: Songwriting is a very amazing process for me because I just get completely lost in it. I will sit down with a guitar, or a piano and three hours will go by and I will not even blink. It is just like that. There is this term in eastern philosophy called Dharana, which is this incredible focus. Immense focus. I feel like that is what we go into. That state. You lose yourself in the music. It happens with painters, and people…all sorts of arts. For me, it is just how I can describe it. It is really tough to talk about honestly, because I just do not know what it is. Sometimes you come out and have a new song. Sometimes you have a song or a verse and a chorus and you are like, “Oh. This is awesome.” Then you listen to is the next day and it is complete shit and you are like, “What was I … Where did I go to get that mixture of sound and structure and chord progression because it does not sound good in this world!”
You said you played up in Oregon and now you are here in LA. How long have you been in LA?
Jon: Four years.
BBB: Differences between playing there and here?
Jon: I did not play enough up in Oregon really. In Portland there is the house show scene. That is when I first got going, really playing at consistently. By that time, I had finished up school and I wanted to move down here. I remember the house shows were so cool. I miss the vibe of it all. I remember having one at my own apartment. There was this great singer-songwriter that I invited over to headline the night. I got a few of my friends and we all just had an amazing time. We recorded the show too. I have the recording. There is a certain aesthetic on the recording that I remember just being so, like was like a community. It was different. In LA you have these incredible venues. Not to say Portalnd doesn’t. There are amazing venues down in Portland. But here you have the Hotel Café, The Satellite and these incredible venues where it just feels like you are playing a
If you could change one thing about the music industry right now, what would it be?
Jon: Oh my God. That is a tough question. Maybe have Napster never happen. I do not know. It makes it so much more available, but at the same time, it is over-saturated now. People can put up any song they write on YouTube. It seems like there is a revolution brewing. People are trying to get musicians a little more respected, paid more. People taking stuff off of Spotify. I do not like how iTunes, you can just buy one song now. There was a feeling about buying CD’s. You go into that record store and you cannot just pick out one track. I think that’s pretty lame, because, as a musician, you put in all this work into a whole album. Yeah, you are really excited about this hit song or single, but you want to give the audience the full experience of what you went through. It just feels like you are not getting the full picture these days.
One song you never get tired of listening to?
Jon: Hall and Oates “Rich Girl”, I think I could listen to that everyday, all day.
Best live show you have ever gone to?
Jon: I have gone to a ton of shows. I saw Muse, way back in the day up in Portland with my brother. I remember it was when they were pretty new and they were playing at the Rose Garden. Me and my brother went online and made this huge mix CD of their tracks. We listened to it for a week before the show, and on the drive up from Corvallis to Portland. We were not too familiar with the songs, but it was just an incredible show. Matt Bellamy, he is an incredible guitarist and pianist. He was playing Rachmaninoff on the piano. He was grabbing a megaphone and singing into a megaphone. Soloing. Incredible stuff really. Also, being with my brother too. I remember just pounding on his back like, “This is the best night! This is incredible!”
Then, they had this…You know, they are this galactic…They have this long ending to the show. Words came up on this projector. It was paragraphs upon paragraphs. I just found myself totally engrossed in it. It was all about galactic philosophies, and black holes. You know how they are. I just sucked it all up. I just loved it. It was the complete show. It was the most perfect show I have ever seen. The music, the lights, the vibe, the philosophy, the depth of it all, the talent. That is probably my favorite show.
Favorite things to do, not musically related?
Jon: I love spending time with my brothers. I love talking philosophy. I grew up playing soccer all my life, so I really love soccer. Watching it, playing it. Justin and I are on a city league basketball team. We are called the Los Feliz Skunks. We just have a blast. I think we went 1-9 last season so we will have to do some practice in the off-season. Hopefully, we will get better.
If you ran Badass Bands Blog, what are some bands that you would feature?
Jon: Let’s see. You know, this is inside information, but a person you should check out is Casey Shea. He is from New York and is assembling an amazing band. This girl, Jillette Johnson, she’s incredible pianist. She played at the Bootleg a year ago. I caught her and she is awesome. So, it is going to be Casey, and her and this guy, Mike Spacey. He plays everything. I asked him what he played, and literally, it is about twenty instruments. I am used to somebody like, “Oh, I play bass. I play drums.” He just kept going.
You may know of Blind Pilot back from Portland. You have so many great bands, like The Record Company and The Janks, so many!
FIND ROMAN HERE: